The Campfire Strikes Back: Help Us Make a Staff Camp Sequel!

Heather, Troublepants and Moo with Scarleteen flagLast summer, we made a big, amazing thing happen for the first time. We brought nearly all of our staff and volunteers from across the United States, Europe, Canada and even Australia, to one beautiful place for a five-day staff campout and epic team-building retreat. And we couldn't have done it without the financial help we got from hundreds of our fantastic supporters (you rock!).

Camp was such a tremendous success by every measure, and so deeply beloved by our staff, we instantly decided it was something we wanted to do and knew would benefit our organization as a yearly event.

So, this year, WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN.

(Dun dun duuuuunnnn.)

The cost for four nights and five days of camp, including all travel, lodging and meal costs, is around $150 a day per person, or around $12,000 for the whole shebang for the sixteen of us participating. It's a little bit more expensive than last year because we have more people coming. The bulk of our staff are generous and dedicated volunteers who are also younger people, so it's extra important to us cover all costs so we can make this possible for them and support them as young educators and activists. Because we remain a fully independent, progressive grassroots (and queer-and-nonbinary-woman owned and operated, don’t forget!) sexuality education and information organization, one without any state, federal, institutional or foundational funding, we need financial help from our supporters to make all this magic happen.

We're asking for your help to collectively fund around half the cost: that's $6,000. 

It's also only 300 people giving just $20, just FYI.

tl;dr: Scarleteen staff camp last year rocked our world. It made our team stronger, our communication better, and boosted the everloving yay out of our morale, and that’s all always going to mean better serving the 5 million-or-so people we serve every year. So we’re doing it again. We’re also again asking you and yours, if you’re able and appreciate what we do, to help us pay for it again. If you’re in, click here, and thanks a whole bunch! 

Like last year, we'll bring the majority of our staff over to beautiful Vashon Island, WA, where Scarleteen keeps its offline HQ. Rather than staying at the campground we did last year (long story short: we do our best to spend ethically, and sadly discovered we wouldn't be doing so anymore at this campground), we’ll be rotating between two big rental houses on the island that offer nicely different terrains and spaces: a beach, a lavender farm, a long outdoor table for group dinners, even a bocce ball court. We'll have wifi at both locales this year, so will be doing what we can to remotely loop in volunteers who can't make it as much as much as possible.

This year's camp and retreat will include: an annual meeting to address and discuss all that we do, staff members each doing a self-created teach or workshop for the group, team-tabling at our farmer's market to get practice giving sex and relationship advice on the fly, kayaking and paddleboarding (here's hoping we've no drowned eyeglasses this time), hikes, a beach day, cooperative cooking of delicious vegetarian meals and more. If it's anything like last year, there will also be much creative improvisation, silliness and friendship that provides exactly the kind of morale-boosting connection and camaraderie we all need to help us do work that we love, but which can also be very stressful and demanding.

Here’s some of what camp means to our team:

2016 Camp Group PhotoOne volunteer said, “I'm finding it difficult to put into words how much camp meant to me: I keep thinking back on it and just being overwhelmed at how amazing it was. Getting to meet and spend time with a group of people I feel so comfortable with pretty much instantly isn't something that happens very often for me, and it was unbelievably valuable. By the end I was physically tired but incredibly energised in terms of my enthusiasm for the work that we do and all of the amazing people I get to do it with: hanging out, talking about non-work stuff and getting to know everyone better was such a treat. Basically, I love everyone in the Scarleteam to bits and it means the world to me that I finally got to spend some in-person time with people who I've thought of as friends for so long now.”

Another: “Feelings-wise, it felt like finding my people. Which sounds silly, because I knew y'all beforehand from working with you. But in person it became clear what a weird, wonderful family we actually are."

Al and the CampfireAnd one more: “...not only did it give me a bigger-picture understanding of how the team works together and how the site works as a whole, it also gave me an understanding of the role each of us plays, and each of our particular strengths and interests. It made me aware of each of our parts that come together as a whole, as well as the whole itself.”

Camp last year was not only good for our squishy hearts, it resulted in important and new organizational projects, like a template and training module for volunteers who want to do outreach, a finish of one big series and the start of another, and a plan for a style guide for those writing for us. In-person practice working with the collective needs and sensitivities of the team, sharing responsibilities and being able to share all our ideas and thoughts for days on end also gave us so much.

Our work is inspiring and exciting, but it often asks a lot of us. The kind of work we do, especially with the culturally diverse population we serve -- and with the precarious and deeply stressful state of the world right now -- has a high rate of burnout, no matter how great a workplace is or how amazing the people doing the work are. We're an organization that's always been trailblazing in doing challenging work: work we've always done differently than most so asks a lot of us creatively; work that's also culturally and economically under-supported and treated as controversial, so it's easy for us to feel unsupported.

Lovely BasilOur organizational culture is also different than it often is in most nonprofits, especially when it comes to giving young people leadership roles and passing the torch as glad and constant praxis, rather than reluctantly or infrequently. We pride ourselves on an inclusive and highly emotionally supportive work environment; we always want to do all we can to assure staff feel as cared for as our users do and that we help to feel positive and energized in providing all of the services we offer. Raising and holding the bar when it comes to staff and volunteer support, morale and team-building is core to us as an organization.

Camp is both work and play for us; both support and spark. Making an already-strong team even stronger provides our staff emotional, intellectual and creative support -- not just so they can do their best work here but for their wellbeing and growth as people -- and can give our users an even better experience with us than they already have. And of course, every part of the retreat will be as inclusive as we are as an organization; all kinds of disability access and any other needed adjustments or additions are a given.

Here's the semi-awkward part where we remind you we're always a bit skint and get back to asking you for money: Despite our vast level of reach and our nearing-two-decade tenure, Scarleteen still does all it does with a lean annual budget (currently around $100K, a high for us), all of which is usually provided by individual donors. That budget barely covers our organizational overhead and living wages for our one full-time and couple part-time paid staff, let alone big extras like this. If we didn't already know how to do things in a very cost-effective way, and weren't such a laid-back group of people, we wouldn't be able to pull this off at all. Alas, our ability to stretch a buck, our simple needs, collaborative spirit, side helpers and home base benefits can't make this happen alone.

Sam and TroublepantsOnce more (with feeling, of course with feeling):

We're looking for your help to raise around $6,000. To make a tax-deductible donation to Scarleteen for camp -- or just because -- click here.

Again, we can manage the rest of the tab, but we'd certainly have no objection to raising the entire cost. In the amazing event we raise even more than that, we'll put extra funds into our general operating budget that funds all the wonderful and vitally necessary work we do, like our website, our mobile and web-based direct services and our in-person outreach.

We just can't thank you enough for any amount you can give.

(Scarleteen pooches Troublepants, Moo and Basil thank you, too. They're super excited about all the incoming kisses, pets and frisbee-throwing. Troublepants doesn't promise to be any better behaved with Sam this year, though. He's only a very small dog.  He can't make or keep promises. He's not sorry, either. )

We all couldn't be more excited about this - again! -- or more grateful for your help in making our annual camp happen. Thank you!

❤️ Heather, Sam and the rest of the Scarleteam 

(Illustrations @2016 Isabella Rotman. Photographs @2016 Al Washburn. All rights reserved.)